Originally created 06/17/04

Pistons are built to last



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Joe Dumars was sporting an NBA championship hat and T-shirt while chewing on an unlit cigar.

Almost two hours after Detroit beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, the Pistons' president of basketball operations was still smiling.

"I don't even smoke," Dumars said. "But I just felt like Red Auerbach, so I grabbed a cigar and I threw it in my mouth."

There could be more championship cigars in Dumars' near future.

"Maybe we don't have two superstars like the Lakers, but we've got five stars in their own way in the starting lineup and a lot of other solid players," Dumars said. "We've got the best of both worlds because we won now, and we can win in the years to come."

With a starting lineup of players 29 or younger, salary cap space and a Hall of Fame coach, the Pistons seem like a team built to last.

Before thinking about the championship possibilities of the future, however, the Pistons and their fans plan to celebrate Thursday with a parade in downtown Detroit and a rally at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

About 16 hours after winning his first NBA title in 21 seasons, coach Larry Brown was back in his office after sending off his four children, and his wife, to the airport.

"It was really exciting to have my family here with me on such a special night," Brown said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm going to have to get out of here soon, too, so I can return all the kind messages I got.

"I've heard from Coach (Dean) Smith twice, Tony La Russa, Red Auerbach, Jerry West, Sinbad, Andy Reid and one of the first of many messages was from Derrick Coleman."

Detroit stunned the Lakers - led by superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant - with a group of unselfish castoffs.

The MVP of the NBA Finals was Chauncey Billups, who was on five teams in his first four seasons before finding a good fit in Detroit two years ago.

Ben Wallace, the team's only All-Star, wasn't even drafted out of college. Wallace was a little known player when he came to the Pistons in the Grant Hill trade four years ago in what was Dumars' first major move as an executive.

Even the volatile Rasheed Wallace fit in, and helped turn a contender into a champion.

"We're a team full of misfits, but these misfits are world champions," said Corliss Williamson, who once played for three teams in two years. "A lot of teams are probably kicking themselves right now for losing all the guys in this locker room.

"We did a great job of coming together, and playing hard as a team. I think a reason we won is that we're a bunch of very hungry misfits."

Re-signing Rasheed Wallace is Detroit's No. 1 priority this offseason.

Wallace, an unrestricted free agent who made $17 million this season, declined to talk about his future plans Tuesday night - just as he's done since Feb. 19 when he was acquired for reserves and draft picks in a three-team trade.

Dumars said his approach to re-signing Wallace will be simple.

"I'm just going to ask him, 'What's not to like?" Dumars said. "And I'll tell him we'll do everything in our power to bring him back."

The Pistons might lose free agent Mehmet Okur because he may be looking for more money and playing time.

Dumars likes the Pistons' future not only for the young nucleus in place, but for his two No. 1 picks last year: Darko Milicic and Carlos Delfino.

The Pistons got about what they expected from Milicic this season - which wasn't much - after being they selected him second in the draft. But they still believe the 7-foot center, who turns 19 on Sunday, has a bright future.

Delfino is expected to provide depth at small forward and shooting guard next year after being one of the top players in Europe this season.

With a 100-87 win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Pistons won their first title since Dumars helped them win their second straight in 1990.

Just three years ago, they were 32-50.

"This is an unreal feeling," he said, shaking his head from side to side. "This is the most satisfying feeling I've ever had in basketball, 10 times more than when I was a player.

"From where we came from when I took over to where we are now, I just feel a tremendous sense of pride."